- Fizzy Thoughts: The Last Queen

The Last Queen

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Last Queen
C.W. Gortner
384 pages

I was a little reluctant to read this book, because hello? Juana la Loca? You just know things aren’t going to end well for someone history has tagged Juana the Crazy.

But then I started seeing this guy (aka the author) all over the internet:

He looks so happy. And many of my favorite bloggers (Literate Housewife and Lisa, to name a few) loved the book. And then I read this article in which Mr. Gortner said,

“Without a clinical diagnosis, it’s of course impossible to know for sure if she might have suffered from postpartum depression or maybe a tendency to melancholia, but I think she was by no means insane. Much of the alleged evidence of her insanity was in fact propaganda created by her husband to support his cause. Was she jealous? Yes. Did she question his authority over her? Absolutely. Did she love him to such distraction she was willing to sacrifice everything? She must not have, because if she had, then why did they go to such lengths to discredit her? Her obsessive sexuality and wild despair over Philip seem more to me like sensational misogynistic excuses to obscure her real motives. Like most rulers of the time, the Hapsburgs paid chroniclers to record history. It must have been convenient to write, “Oh, she was so in love she went nuts” than tell the truth, which would have been unpleasant for the
Hapsburgs, to say the least.”

Suddenly, I was all I have to read this book. Because I love stories that make you think maybe the person just got a bad rap. Another good example of this is Lucrezia, by John Faunce. It’s a great re-telling of Lucrezia Borgia’s life...by the end of that book I thought Lucrezia was a saint.

But this isn’t about Lucrezia. This is about Juana, daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella (remember them?), sister of Catherine of Aragon (remember her?). She also had some other siblings. Unfortunately for everyone involved, they died and Juana became heir to the thrones of Castile and Aragon. And her life pretty much sucked from there on out. Juana became the victim of both her husband’s and her father’s greed for power. Her asshat (thanks chartroose, for reminding me of this most excellent word) husband and her feeling-a-little-pussy-whipped father (see, I’m writing my own revisionist history…aren’t you glad I no longer teach high school history?) both wanted her throne. After a few struggles, Juana was finally locked up. For 46 years!!! Her own family imprisoned her for 46 freakin' years, until she died at the age of 76....all so that men could sit on the throne (okay, I'm simplifying, but still!). Doesn't that just break your heart?

And since this is all historical fact (well, the locking up, not my character interpretations) I haven’t given away any spoilers. It’s like the Titanic – you know the boat sinks, but you still watch the movie (well, you might. I try not to).

Anyway…if you are at all into historical fiction, you should read this book. Not only will you learn important stuff (that's a high-falutin' academic term, by the way), but you get to enjoy some beautiful writing along the way. Mr. Gortner does a wonderful job of bringing history to life and making history more about personalities than just facts on a page. In fact, he did such an awesome job with his characters that I'm still pissed on Juana's behalf...and she's been dead for 453 years.

I hear his next book is on Catherine de Medici. I can’t wait!

5 comment(s):

chartroose said...

You're welcome! Asshat IS marvelous, isn't it? I've been feeling quite potterish (filled with adolescent angst) lately. I made that one up today. Do you think it will do?

Ti said...

Asshat.. too funny.

Jill, your reviews crack me up. They tell me exactly what I need to know but in a super fun way. I always look forward to them.

Dar said...

Well now I want to read this book even more than I did in the first place. Love your review-I always like the humor mixed in with the review. We can always rely on you for that. lol.

asshat-love it! I have a new word thanks to you and chartroose. I can't wait to try it out on some unsuspecting soul.

softdrink said...

char - now I need a book that's appropriately potterish. Somehow, I don't think The Heretic's Daughter is going to work with that word. Although you could maybe use it on Edgar...how's that going, by the way?

Ti and Dar - why thank you. And Dar, I wish I could be there when you use it!

LisaMM said...

Thanks for the shout out, Jill!

Char has enriched my vocabulary more than once, and asshat is now a regular addition to my verbal repertoire. It just works, don't you agree?

Very fun review, hitting all the key important points but not giving up the plot. Love it.

In a real sense, people who have read good literature have lived more than people who cannot or will not read. It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish. ~S.I. Hayakawa

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
~St. Augustine

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.
~Mark Twain

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